$78K In Grants Awarded To Catapult Fund Class Of 2016, 12 Food Industry Small Business Owners

NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Catapult Fund program, a business accelerator for entrepreneurs in the culinary arts, awarded $78,000 in grants to 12 New Orleans-area food businesses Wednesday, Jan 11.

         A restaurant owner in the Holy Cross section of the Lower 9th Ward, a praline maker in LaPlace, a military chef with dreams of serving healthy food from a fleet of food trucks and a baker specializing in vegan and gluten-free desserts were just a few of the Louisiana food business owners who received training, and funding, from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Catapult Fund program.

         The Catapult Fund provides training in business basics, plus access to funding, to small business owners in the arts in Louisiana. More than 70 people applied for the opportunity to take 17 weekly classes on topics that included accounting, human resources, insurance, marketing and much more. From those, 12 were selected to participate in the program, which also teaches how to write a business plan and provides food safety certification. For those who successfully complete the program, the training is augmented with grant funding to support their businesses.

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         Classes began on June 29 and continued through October. In December, class members presented business “pitches” that they worked for weeks to perfect. They also presented written business plans. The pitches and business plans were reviewed by a panel of independent judges.

         Yesterday, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation distributed grant awards totaling $78,000 to all 12 of the members of the 2016 class of the Catapult Fund. Six thousand dollars of the grant funds was given as prizes for those with the best combination of pitch and business plan. The remaining funds were distributed equally to all of the class members as individual grants of $6,000 to support their small businesses.

         “We provide more than $700,000 each year to nonprofits through our Community Partnership Grants,” said Don Marshall, executive director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. “We wanted to do something to support the entrepreneurs whose role is so important to the cultural economy. The Catapult Fund is a big step in that direction.”

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         This is the second phase of a pilot program. During the first phase, in 2014, 11 business owners from a wide variety of arts disciplines completed the training and shared a pool of $50,000 in grant funding that was provided by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

         In the current phase, the program was narrowed to the culinary arts – the food industry. Capital One Bank added $25,000 to the funding from the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, increasing the total pool of grant funding available to the 2016 class members to more than $75,000. Other partners in the Catapult Fund program include the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center.

         The Catapult Fund hopes to distinguish itself from other entrepreneur assistance programs in New Orleans by combining rigorous training with access to funding, and by reaching deeper into the community to provide support to small business owners who otherwise might not have such an opportunity.

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         Some of the topics covered in the 17 weekly classes were:


• Writing a business plan

• Finance, credit and managing debt

• Insurance and risk management

• Business structures

• Accounting and record keeping

• Cash flow and budgeting

• Sales, marketing and customer service

• Marketing and social media

• Human resources

• Food safety and health

• Customer development and retention

• Menu development

• Local and organic food sourcing

• Healthy food options

• Food sales in an outdoor environment


         The class members also had presentations from guest speakers, including the chefs John Besh and Alon Shaya.

         The Catapult Fund classes piggy-back on the success of “Getting Down to Business,” a program launched by Capital One in Houston in January 2009. They also are modeled on similar classes for food industry entrepreneurs that the Louisiana Small Business Development Center recently completed for those operating stands at the Roux Carré food court in the Central City neighborhood.

         The Catapult Fund was designed for aspiring business owners like Shantrise Sykes, who is a few years from retiring from her position as a military chef in the Louisiana Army National Guard. She also works in the culinary department at Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Arena. She recently purchased a truck that she is converting into a mobile catering kitchen. And she has big dreams for the future.

         “I applied to the Catapult Fund because I wanted to better myself and to become a successful chef,” Sykes said. “And I want to help people eat better and live longer. I want to have a few food trucks, a brick-and-mortar restaurant and I want to sell prepackaged seasonings – fresh, not dried – and different international flavors of seafood boils.”

         For Fred Henry, who owns Café Dauphine in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the Lower 9th Ward with his wife Tia Moore-Henry, he wants to improve conditions in the “food desert” of the area where he grew up. A graduate of St. Augustine High School who also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Dillard University and a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of New Orleans, he worked for the Orleans Parish School Board and Nunez Community College before launching a career as a carpenter and contractor. The Henrys opened Café Dauphine in 2012 “because I wanted to reinvest in my own neighborhood and aid in the revitalization of the area.”

         Although they had no restaurant background, Tia Moore-Henry had previously run a catering operation from their home. The restaurant has become successful “by trial and error along the way.” But, he added, “We lack crucial tools necessary for the long-term success of Café Dauphine. The Catapult Fund boot camp offers skill-building in the areas where we are weak.”

         The Catapult Fund Class of 2016 members are:


• Fred Henry, co-owner of Café Dauphine, a restaurant in Lower 9th Ward

• Jayna Jenson Babylon and Kris Babylon, co-owners of St. Coffee on St. Claude, a coffee shop that has ambitions of becoming a restaurant

• Becky Wasden and Stefani Sell, partners in Two Girls One Shuck, which caters raw oysters for special events

• Hayden Aley, owner of Girls Gone Vegan Baking, which specializes in vegan and gluten-free desserts

• Brandon Wiley, owner of Jazz City Café, a restaurant in Chalmette

• Lesley and Artis Turner, co-owners of Pressed, a restaurant that will open soon in the new headquarters of the Greater New Orleans Foundation

• Ethel Williams, co-owner of Cocoa & Cream Mobile Foods and Catering, a food truck and caterer

• Natasha Raymond and Desi Jones, co-owners of Southern Fixings, which makes specialty pralines in LaPlace

• Christopher and Karen Case, co-owners of Old School Eats, a food truck and fine dining caterer in Slidell

• Shantrise Sykes, owner of Five Star Creole Dishes, a food truck and caterer

• Tracy Kish and Samantha Saliter, partners in The Crepe Cart, which sells freshly made crepes from a mobile cart at the French Market and other locations

• Nicole Bordley, owner of The Puddin' Shop, which makes individual servings of bread puddings to sell at retail stores


         The Catapult Fund is a program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented by Shell. The Foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other raised funds, for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment.

         For more information



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